“Urban Preacher II” by Yuji Hiratsuka

Art from Near and Far

Highlights from White Lotus Gallery’s permanent collection 

In this moment of COVID-19 restrictions, when people around the world are being asked to limit  their travel, Eugene’s White Lotus Gallery presents us with art from as far away as China and as near as Eugene. Highlights from the Gallery Collection is drawn from the gallery’s permanent collection and features works from 21 different artists. The exhibit runs until March 6.

A problem that artists often face, regardless of the culture with which they identify, is how to make a portrait that is both personal and universal. 

Yuji Hiratsuka, whose intaglio with collé print called “Urban Preacher II” is included in the show, typically leaves specific features off of his figures. Leaving off the eyes — the so-called windows to the soul — might seem a strange custom for an artist, but Hiratsuka relates this practice of omission to the simplicity of zen. 

“In this case,” he says, “I always leave the face blank or flat and profile very simple. I do not draw eyes or noses on my portraits. The human face is always changing; the face at work is different from the face that enjoys the love.”  

Hiratsuka was born in Osaka, Japan, and studied art education at Tokyo Gakugei University (Tokyo Teachers’ University). He initially came to the U.S. to pursue a graduate degree in printmaking at New Mexico State University and has been an art professor at Oregon State University, teaching drawing and printmaking, since 1992. 

In addition to having works at White Lotus Gallery, his art is also included in permanent collections of such institutions as the British Museum, Tokyo Central Museum and Portland Art Museum.

He Xuesheng is a Chinese artist who was raised to graze sheep but became more interested in painting. He has three oil paintings in the exhibit: “Journey,” “Dwellings” and “Opera — Back Stage.” 

Xuesheng got his start as a commercial artist with the Wu Shong Cigarette Factory. In 1992 he moved from the SuPu village, where he was raised, to the Beijing area, which is where he still resides. He paints whatever he wants now — versus ads for cigarettes — in a style he calls “Tu Feng,” or folk custom. He has been represented by White Lotus Gallery since 1995. 

White Lotus gallerist Jennifer Huang says the wonderful “Opera — Back Stage” (1996) most likely represents a performance in the rural area the artist hails from rather than the Beijing opera. The subject matter then, a crowded mass of operatic figures, is a rural interpretation of city life.    

“Southwest Exposure” (1997) by Frank Okada (1931- 2000) is an oil on shaped paper. The piece is characteristic of Okada’s career as an abstract artist. He was awarded a Whitney Fellowship in 1957, a Fulbright Fellowship in 1959 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967. In 1969 he moved to Eugene to work as an art professor at the University of Oregon.

Okada was born in Seattle. His parents were from the Hiroshima area in Japan, and came to the U.S after World War I. During World War II, they and Okada and his siblings spent three years in two detention or relocation camps. After the war the family returned to Seattle, where Okada went to art school; he then was drafted into the army, where he spent time in Korea during the Korean war. 

Okada taught art at the University of Oregon for 30 years. His work is widely housed in permanent collections around the world as well, including at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.  

White Lotus Gallery does not plan on having any affiliated art receptions, talks or events corresponding to this show, either in person or online. While some participating artists are near, others live abroad and still others have passed away. Even without the social restrictions currently in place, Huang says it makes sense to forgo the traditional art talk.

“The art will have to speak for itself” she says.

Highlights from the Gallery Collection runs through March 6 at White Lotus Gallery, 767 Willamette Street. Hours are 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Masks required.

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